Millions of acres of Ethiopia’s most fertile land are being made available to investors, often in long-term leases and at giveaway prices. Although proponents of these investments call them “win-win” deals, the reality proves much different. To make way for agricultural investment, and through its so-called villagization program, the Ethiopian government has forcibly displaced hundreds of thousands of indigenous people from their lands. This relocation process has destroyed livelihoods. This briefing paper provides an overview of the human rights impacts of land investment and the villagization process on the indigenous Anuak community in Ethiopia’s Gambella region. The struggle of the Anuak in Gambella is emblematic of the struggles of other communities in Ethiopia that are being forcibly displaced to make way for large-scale land investors.
Ethiopia is one of the main targets in the current global farmland grab. The government has stated publicly that it wants to sell off three million hectares of farmland in the country to foreign investors, and around one million hectares have already been signed away. Much of the land that these investors have acquired is in the province of Gambella, a fertile area that is home to the Anuak (Anywaa) nation. The Anuak are indigenous people who have always lived in Gambella and who practise farming, pastoralism, hunting and gathering. Nyikaw Ochalla, an Anuak living in exile in the United Kingdom, is trying to understand what this new wave of land deals will mean for the Anuak and other local communities in Ethiopia.